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Did Jesus stone or enable stoning?

Jesus said, "If you want her stoned then fine but find somebody worthy to do so."


In John 8, a woman caught committing adultery is brought to Jesus to see if he will endorse the death penalty laid down by God which is death by stoning.


If the story shows Jesus let her off the hook then that was down to luck not goodness for the same gospel says the same man, in evil Old Testament style, whipped and attacked and verbally abused people in the Temple not long before.  But it is not clear he really intended to let her get away with it.


Jesus supposedly saved her by reminding her accusers that they were no better than her.  The accusers give no hint that they really want to stone the woman and we are told it was a test of Jesus to see what he would say.  He saved nobody.


Even if Jesus did save her, it would not imply opposition to the death penalty if her accusers were trying to trap him by making out he opposed the law.  If so it failed for Jesus said she should be stoned but only under the right circumstances. 


It is possible that when he said he does not condemn her that he means he was aware that she did not fully consent to the adultery and thus her lack of consent made her ineligible for the death penalty.  But that is refuted by how he is clear that she must be stoned but only by those who are morally good enough to do so.  They have to be worthy as if stoning were a reward.  This fits the Bible God's command that there must be no pity and its an honour to "purge the evil from your midst."


He would have had a problem with the accusers demanding that she be stoned when God is clear in the Bible that the entire congregation must do it - it is not a job for a mob.
He says that the person there who does not deserve what she deserves may lift the first stone.


Jesus supposedly protected her by getting the accusers not to stone her.  Jesus did not protect the woman. The protection just happened. It was pure luck that the men did not lift up stones and say they were not sinners so they were entitled to.


He merely makes the accusers realise that they deserve stoning as much as she does so they walk away.  The most natural idea is that the accusers were also guilty of adultery.  If so, then the story is not against stoning a woman to death but against selectively stoning people to death.  The law of Moses recognised that everybody sins.  Those men did not just commit ordinary sins and must have deserved stoning themselves and they had the honesty to walk away.  The sin Jesus refers to is definitely capital sin - sin that asks for and deserves a cruel execution.
He does not tell her he forgave her but that he will not stone her. He could not stone her himself anyway. Nor could he lift the first stone when the others deserved stoning as well for they would be joining in.
He tells her not to sin that way any more.  Jesus did not ask the woman to repent of her sin but to avoid it.  The context shows he meant she was lucky this time and would hopefully be stoned if she committed adultery again.

The story is distorted by many as a protest against the death penalty.
But Jesus made it clear he never disagrees with God and God laid out that penalty in his scripture that he would have went to honour in the synagogue every Saturday.


He told Pilate that God gave him the power to put him to death - John 19. 


He said that its better to drown somebody than to let them corrupt children (Matthew 18:6).


The criminal with Jesus on the cross agreed with his own death sentence in Luke 23:40-41 and Jesus showed his approval by giving him instant paradise.
Jesus is clear she should be stoned. Even if she was not stoned then, it follows that she could have been stoned later. He does not actually say the penalty is done away.


The Jews would have thought Jesus did not stone the woman for he was a sinner himself.  We can think that too!
Those closest to Jesus agreed with the death penalty such as Paul his prime apostle, Acts 25:11, "If I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of these things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them."


Why were the men so sure Jesus would agree with the stoning?  There were other ways to trap him so it was more than just a trap.  He must have clearly endorsed the laws right to stone and put it into practice.  If it is true that they were vigilantes then they risked their own lives by going to such an extreme to get Jesus to authorise murder without the say of the law.  They were certain that Jesus was pro-death penalty even for vulnerable women like the one stood before him.
Lazy people who know of Jesus guess that he saved a woman from being stoned to death for adultery. The Bible tells the story in John 8. God commanded his people in the Bible, in the law, to stone adulterous people to death without pity. The Jews brought a woman who committed adultery and was caught in the act to Jesus to see if he would tell them to go ahead. He said that only those of them who had no sin could stone her. They walked off and Jesus let her go.
The story allegedly says that Jesus condemned the sin not the sinner even though Moses' law said she should be condemned to death as a sinner. In fact, honest scholars admit that the story does say sinners should be condemned to death but the problem is that everybody sins. That was why Jesus let her go. It was not about the principle but about the practicalities. The story cannot be used to argue that Jesus was so strongly pro-life that he abolished the killing laws.
Also, we are not told or cannot know all the circumstances. Jesus letting her go does not necessarily imply abolition of stoning. And if it did, it would be referring to her stoning being cancelled and would not mean that cancelling or abolishing stoning was now the policy for all sinners like her. You cannot argue from this individual case that Jesus wanted to save all adulterers from stoning.
"Jesus observed all of the [Jewish] Law" Dave Armstrong, The One Minute Apologist, Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, New Hampshire, 2007.
Christian, Matthew Henry "Christ neither found fault with the law, nor excused the prisoner's guilt; nor did he countenance the pretended zeal of the Pharisees."
“The thought is not that no human being has the right to execute another. No, the point is to say that they don’t have to press charges this particular time. ..Jesus says he has no problem with it as long as the eager would-be executioners are quite sure they have the moral superiority to act as her judges. ” Blaming Jesus for Jehovah by Robert Price.
Jesus in Matthew 5 denies that he will alter the law but said he will fulfil it. His aim was the fulfilling the law for it came from God and is without error. If Jesus contradicted the law we must put that down to misinterpretation - it does not mean he meant to contradict it or that he thought contradicting it was okay.
Even the Church says that the woman Jesus "saved" from being stoned to death deserved to be stoned and should have been. Jesus's God commanded stoning in his Bible. The Church says that the only reason she was not was because Jesus gave her mercy. That is extremist doctrine for nobody deserves that treatment or such a patronising passive aggressive "mercy". If somebody exaggerates what you deserve and then offers mercy that is not mercy but a farce. The Church has no right then to complain if some Catholics start stoning tomorrow. Strictly speaking, it was the men who were poised to stone her that saved her by walking away not Jesus. The story gives no hint that Jesus had any pity for the woman. That is unsurprising for the God of the law said pitying such was a sin.
Let us read the story.
The Jewish leaders brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. Read John 8 - New International Version (NIV)

1 Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
They asked him if she should be stoned to death.
None did cast a stone.
They walked away.
Jesus told her he would not stone her and that she must not commit adultery again.
Jesus did not say that it was wrong to stone the adulteress to death. He said if you were any better than her it was okay to cast the first stone. That is saying the death penalty is right in principle even if not always practical or possible. Obviously if it is not wrong in principle it is not the worst sin if you go out and murder an adulteress!
He did not stone her for those who had the authority to do so in Jewish Law had walked away thus cancelling what they intended to do.
The Jews brought the woman to him to test him if he would obey the law of God to have her stoned. They expected him to tell them to stone her and probably participate himself. The Jews were definitely very convinced Jesus would say yes. They were willing to implicate themselves as they were so sure. Clearly, Jesus must have been involved in stonings previously.  If those stonings were illegal then the authorities did not know about it. Or Jesus had been heard endorsing stoning. He could have been complaining against Rome's interference with the divine law that such women are to be stoned.
Jesus was careful not to imply that stoning anybody to death was necessarily wrong. A really good man would have condemned it outright. Jesus was willing to risk his hide over lesser matters such as the frauds in the Temple market and even go berserk in the Temple.
Why did the would-be stoners bring the woman to Jesus? It was a trap. That is all the gospel tells us. It does say what kind of trap or how dangerous this trap was or if they only intended to make Jesus look like a fool.
The Christians imagine they know why it was a trap. It is believed the law of Rome which banned Jews from carrying executions. If he said yes then he broke Roman law that the Jews could not stone and would have had to be arrested. But surely he would not have been arrested unless the men were truly about to stone the woman and attempting to and killing her would mean they would be worse off than him! You would wonder how people would try to get Jesus to sanction a murder against Roman law when they were sanctioning it too and just wanted his blessing!
It is odd how most people say Jesus couldn't tell them to stone her for that would put his own life in jeopardy with Rome and they still lie that Jesus saved the woman because he opposed stoning. If Jesus was forced to save her then the story is no argument against stoning. It is an argument for stoning.
Some believe that Jesus could have sanctioned her murder without suffering any consequences from the Romans. But the gospel itself, whether it is true or false, does say the Jews were banned from performing executions.
Jesus said yes if the person without sin could cast the first stone. Surely even saying that WAS breaking Roman law (assuming Jewish executions were banned) so it was not Roman law he worried about but the law of Moses. Or it could be that he took a risk anyway. If so, that shows how much he agreed with killing her so barbarically.
It could look as if the gospel shows no concern for Romans at all. It was purely about obedience to God speaking in Moses. Some say that Jesus could not say no to the proposed stoning and that was where the trap lay. They wanted to see if he would say no to letting her be punished by stoning to death and thus contradict Moses God's prophet and therefore God. That argument declares that Jesus had no problem enabling brutal religion and put man before principle and cruel moralism before a woman's life.
Some think the episode is about people who wanted to lynch her and that the proposed execution had nothing to do with the Jewish Law but was the law being abused. If so Jesus could have condemned them outright and didn't. Others believe that the execution laws are pro-lynching.
Incredibly some say the Jews wanted Jesus exposed as a person who relaxes public morality! If that is what they wanted they got it if the story really proves that Jesus abolished the death penalty for adultery! In the light of the Jewish Bible which Jesus treated as infallible, God says he will not acquit the guilty in Exodus 23:17. Jesus was unlikely to have relaxed the laws.
The mention of the trap gives you the proof you need that Jesus did not consider stoning women to death to be intrinsically evil but justifiable.
If Jesus agreed with the woman being stoned then he agreed with gays being stoned.
Jesus was careful not to say he had forgiven her. He only told her that as the men who were going to stone her had gone he was not going to stone her and asked her not to commit adultery again.
It is believed that the law of Moses about stoning was misapplied by the men in this case because they brought her for stoning and not the man she was caught with and the law decreed that both had to die. But that assumes the man didn't get away or was not already stoned. It would mean that Jesus said it was okay for them to stone her even if the law was being abused by them as long as they were without sin. If Christians think Jesus was more liberal than Moses about allowing stoning then let them!
Despite the fact that the event involved the Jewish officials and even the Temple show the story was not about a lynching. It was all official. And the woman had been tried and found guilty. Even Jesus said she was guilty.
The Christian has no right to say Christ did not engage in such killings when he was on earth for nobody knows anything about the most of his life. As a good Jew who supported the law it is possible that he did participate. And likely.
The argument of some that God is against the death penalty but merely permits it overlooks the fact that he actually commanded it. The argument is a shame-faced lie. Usually it is said that Jesus said Moses had to permit divorce for the people would go out of control if he didn't. But it is obvious that if a nation was that keen on sexual freedom it would not have wanted to stone adulterers. There is a universe of difference between God being forced to tolerate divorce and legislate for it and him having to tolerate stoning and legislate it. Allowing divorce would not justify letting human life be taken. If God was against the death penalty then why did he allow the cruellest form of the death penalty imaginable - being stoned to death and degraded to the lowest? Hanging would have more dignity!
William Lane Craig thinks that the brutal laws of the Bible really did come from God. But he says that does not mean they are for us today. Back then times were so godless and brutal that God had to make the best laws possible under the circumstances though those laws seem harsh to us.


First, the Bible says that God's book in which he wrote these laws, the Torah is perfect and ideal.


Second, the Torah never says that God was forced to make the laws.


Third, Craig is blaming the victims and is merely speculating.


Fourth, he is blaming the Israelites and saying they were so terrible that there was no option but to make laws for them that fell short of the ideal.


Fifth, what Bible verse has he got to back up his idea? None.


Jesus allegedly said that Moses wrote the divorce law for the Jews for they were too stubborn to live without it but it was not what God really wanted. But the law merely assumes that divorce was happening and tries to regulate it a bit but does not say that divorce is allowed. It does not mean that we can think the same about other laws. Adulterous people were not being stoned in Israel forcing God to regulate it. He did not regulate it. He simply commanded it. Religion says God has the right to tell you to kill specific people but here he is letting corrupt man decide who to kill! That does not sound like a God who is forced to make such laws for the people are so bad. You do not make laws like that that are to be implemented by uncivilised and corrupt and stubborn people. And people who are good at their core, not just people who do good things, do not make excuses for stuff like that. And if there is a God they have to answer for slandering him in the name of Christ.
Jesus was careful not to command that she not be stoned. That is significant and implies that the Church has the right to reinstate stoning.
We conclude that the story is about Jesus' support for killing the woman but the problem was that the people wanting to execute her were shown they should be stoned too. The story strongly reinforces the belief that Jesus Christ did not do away with killing adulterous people. And his permitting it if the circumstances were right means that even though the Roman Empire ruled the nation, the Jews had a moral right to continue with the executions. Some liberal Christians lie that the killing laws only applied to the Jews if they ruled themselves. Jesus strongly disagreed and rather than nudging the men to think about drowning her or something instead urged them to continue thinking she should be stoned if not by them. They left still wanting to stone her but unable. So much for the humane Jesus!




The theologian JP Holding says, “Jesus … told the accusers that whichever one of them was sinless ought to start the stoning. A ‘no, don’t stone her”, would not have challenged the power of the state; it would have challenged the authenticity and authority of the Old Testament law.”


So he is clear that Jesus was not against the stoning for it was the stoners he had the problem with.  And it shows he clearly did not want to challenge the authority of Old Testament law for he regarded it as infallible.  If people want to think he was more concerned about the law as a cultural and religious law than her let them.  But it seems the reason he was concerned not just because it was what he lived under but because he considered it to be God's infallible word.
We are told by bleeding heart semi-Christians, “Jesus proved that God had revoked the capital laws of the Torah when he saved the adulteress from being stoned to death by a group of Jews though these laws required it - see John 8. When Jesus saved her it shows he revoked the death penalty in spite of the Law. He implied that the Law was evil for allowing sinners to kill sinners”.

Christian books like When Critics Ask say that the passage does not support the proposal that Jesus was against capital punishment (page 415).

This is correct.
The reasons are as follows.
Jesus implies that the woman should be stoned when he said that if the accusers were not guilty of sin they could stone her for she was guilty. The Christians have to hold that he meant this for he could not deceive. Even if she had merely wanted to commit adultery but didn’t carry it out physically he would have said the same.

Some say that the Jews could not execute under Jewish law but under Roman law for the latter was the law of the land. The Jews who sought to slay the woman did not obey the Law of Moses which demanded that both the guilty parties be brought before the people for trial and execution if guilty. Jesus would not have approved of the execution when it was planned only to trap him which does not mean he would oppose her being executed under any other different circumstances.
The Jews were wandering through different territories and different legal jurisdictions for they were a wandering people at the time God made the law of executing killers, homosexuals, adulterers and witches. This means the Law of killing has to be obeyed no matter what the jurisdictions think. The man who sinned with the woman might have been already dealt with or was to be dealt with later so the Law that both of them had to be brought before the people was obeyed – there is no reason to believe the Law would care if it were done at the one time or not. It is true that the people who brought the woman to Jesus had a bad motive but the gospel does not tell us that it was their only motive or their main one. We read that they planned to trap him. Since nothing is said in the passage about Roman law and the Jewish law is mentioned they were hoping to get Jesus to break the Law of Moses by demanding that she be spared. But what Jesus does is make them see that they are as bad as her and deserve to die as well and they go away and he tells the woman he does not condemn her to death for there is nobody to condemn her. Jesus refused to condemn the capital punishment laws. Though he delighted in offending the Jews and their traditions he didn’t dare because he wanted them to stay in force.
It is certain from reading the passage that Jesus believed that she deserved to be put to death and that the Law of Moses was right to demand the destruction of adulterers (page 373, Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties; page 124, The Enigma of Evil). Jesus could not abrogate a death penalty when his religious system said that the reason we can die and will die though it be by execution, murder or naturally is that God and himself has sentenced us to death for our sins (page 125, The Enigma of Evil).
Jesus could have cancelled the death penalty for the woman would not have had a fair trial because the accusers were big sinners or adulterers themselves. He was ready to air their dirty linen which was why they walked away one by one. That was why he would not let the men judge her and stone her. There is no hint that Jesus was postponing her trial for he could not do that. He told her he would not condemn her but did she get off? He meant he would not stone her to death and says nothing to stop her being judged properly and stoned at a later date. He only let her go on her way. He only said he didn’t condemn her. He could have been leaving it up to the judges if they wanted to judge her legally and destroy her. He said nothing that indicated he forbade this.
The accusers broke the Law by accusing a woman without having her partner in sin there to bear witness against her. And they had no proof that one of the pair were married and did not take her to the elders for trial first so Jesus could not have let them stone her anyway though Jesus agreed that she should be. Since the man could not be punished with her Jesus would have had to let her go though he knew she was guilty for it could not be proved. The Christian book, The Enigma of Evil, tells us that Jesus had to save the woman for her execution would not have been in accordance with the Law of Moses but would have been a lynching by its standards (page 124). So his saving her does not mean he wanted the Jewish law repealed.

Also, the Jews were not permitted by Rome to kill unless they got the go-ahead from its representatives so Jesus would have had to forbid her execution but only at that particular time.
Perhaps Jesus knew the woman was not in her right mind or drunk when he told her he did not condemn her. She was guilty of adultery but not guilty enough to merit the death penalty. This would stop anybody appealing to the episode to prove that Jesus banned stoning adulterers to death.
The explanation I prefer is that Jesus was not having people who were deserving of stoning themselves stone this woman to death and that it would have been right to see her killed if the right people were doing it. He permitted those who had less sins than her to kill her with stones and he meant it for he said so. He was stating that despite the Roman law that forbade the Jews to kill without permission they should do it. He made it a duty for the Christians to kill homosexuals and prostitutes and adulterers in defiance of the state. He believed that the Law of Moses was for all.
Jesus was not saying the Law was wrong for he did indicate that it was right to stone her in the right circumstances. Martin Luther believed the Christian religion required the execution of adulterers and adulteresses (page 391, Martin Luther). 


Jews when able to, put adulterous people to death. What about Jesus telling the Jews to judge men or women who remarried after divorce as guilty of adultery?   He said that to Jewish leaders who were also lawyers meaning he was virtually telling them to execute the divorced and remarried and not just cheaters.

We must not forget that Jesus was serious when he said that he who has no sin must cast the first stone. He didn’t say it was wrong to even want to cast the stone. This was not about it being wrong to stone her but about the hypocrisy of those who wanted to stone her. If there had been a person there who didn’t deserve death then Jesus would have told him to cast the first stone. He told us that. Why didn’t he cast it himself? Because he couldn’t. He had to opt out because his job as teacher from Heaven came first.
The story was not in the original gospel. The best manuscripts don’t have it.  And though it is put in John 8 nobody knows where it belongs (some ancients thrust it in at the end of Luke) which is certainly due to the fact that it does not belong in the New Testament at all. The doctrine that it is inspired and is a part of the Bible is just a Catholic dogma proclaimed by the infallible Council of Trent. There is no evidence for any of this so Trent was guilty of fraud for it said that the Church could not make a dogma binding and infallibly proclaim it true without conclusive evidence. The story is in the King James Bible suggesting that Protestants accept it as canonical.

“The evidences of the earlier manuscripts of the Gospel of John suggest that this particular passage was not included by John himself in the original text of his gospel.
The earliest surviving witness to this episode seems to be the sixth-century Codex Bezae” (Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties, page 371).

But, still, the passage could be true and it is certainly a testimony from early tradition that Jesus was pro-murder.  He told an adulteress she should be stoned but only by people who didn't deserve to be stoned themselves! In other words, believing in or being fine with stoning people is not a moral flaw!  Actually it is not a flaw but a heinous outrage.
Even if God does not want us to kill homos and adulterers he cannot condemn us harshly for doing it if they deserve it. It would be no worse than the sins we commit every day that defy him. We all know that if you attack person X without good reason and X attacks you back that X is not stooping down to your level (if free will exists that is and if the concept of deserving is true!) for you asked for it and X did not. To have X told off and perhaps punished while you get away would be sick indeed for you are more bad than he is.

NOTES: The story is thought to have been invented out of the apocryphal story of Susanna where Daniel saves her from being stoned to death.  Like the Jesus version, the Jews do not keep to the legal procedure and lose any right to stone her.   It seems the story appeared late and originally belonged to the Gospel of the Hebrews. Eusebius seems to have thought that.  The Gospel of the Hebrews endorsed Jewish Christianity and thus having a Jesus who abolished the stoning penalty would have been inconceivable.  This context verifies our interpretation.